on Acts 8 :26
Arise, and go toward the south - How circumstantially particular are these directions! Every thing is so precisely marked that there is no danger of the apostle missing his way. He is to perform some great duty; but what, he is not informed. The road which he is to take is marked out; but what he is to do in that road, or how far he is to proceed, he is not told! It is God who employs him, and requires of him implicit obedience. If he do his will, according to the present direction, he shall know, by the issue, that God hath sent him on an errand worthy of his wisdom and goodness. We have a similar instance of circumstantial direction from God in Acts 9:11 : Arise, go into the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one Saul of Tarsus, etc. And another instance, still more particular, in Acts 10:5, Acts 10:6 : Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter; he lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea side. God never sends any man on a message, without giving him such directions as shall prevent all mistakes and miscarriages, if simply and implicitly followed. This is also strictly true of the doctrines contained in his word: no soul ever missed salvation that simply followed the directions given in the word of God. Those who will refine upon every thing, question the Divine testimony, and dispute with their Maker, cannot be saved. And how many of this stamp are found, even among Christians, professing strict godliness!
Gaza, which is desert - Αὑτη εϚιν ερημος, This it the desert, or this is in the desert. Gaza was a town about two miles and a half from the sea-side; it was the last town which a traveler passed through, when he went from Phoenicia to Egypt, and was at the entrance into a wilderness, according to the account given by Arrian in Exped. Alex. lib. ii. cap. 26, p. 102. [Ed. Gronov.]
That it was the last inhabited town, as a man goes from Phoenicia to Egypt, επι τῃ αρχῃ της Ερημου, on the commencement of the desert. See Bp. Pearce.
Dr. Lightfoot supposes that the word desert is added here, because at that time the ancient Gaza was actually desert, having been destroyed by Alexander, and μενουσα ερημος, remaining desert, as Strabo, lib. xvi. p. 1102, says; and that the angel mentioned this desert Gaza to distinguish it from another city of the same name, in the tribe of Ephraim, not far from the place where Philip now was. On this we may observe that, although Gaza was desolated by Alexander the Great, as were several other cities, yet it was afterwards rebuilt by Gabinius. See Josephus, Ant. lib. xv. cap. 5, sect. 3. And writers of the first century represent it as being flourishing and populous in their times. See Wetstein.
Schoettgen thinks that ερημος, desert, should be referred, not to Gaza, but to ὁδος, the way; and that it signifies a road that was less frequented. If there were two roads to Gaza from Jerusalem, as some have imagined, (see Rosenmuller), the eunuch might have chosen that which was desert, or less frequented, for the sake of privacy in his journeying religious exercises.
on Acts 8 :26
And the angel of the Lord - The word "angel" is used in the Scriptures in a great variety of significations. See the notes on Matthew 1:20. Here it has been supposed by some to mean literally a celestial messenger sent from God; others have supposed that it means a "dream"; others a "vision," etc. The word properly means a "messenger"; and all that it can be shown to signify here is, that the Lord sent a "message" to Philip of this kind. It is most probable, I think, that the passage means that God communicated the message by his Spirit; for in Acts 8:29, Acts 8:39, it is expressly said that "the Spirit" spake to Philip, etc. Thus, in Acts 16:7, the "Spirit" is said to have forbidden Paul to preach in Bithynia; and in Acts 8:9, the message on the subject is said to have been conveyed in "a vision." There is no absurdity, however, in supposing that an "angel" literally was employed to communicate this message to Phil See Hebrews 1:14; Genesis 19:1; Genesis 22:11; Judges 6:12.
Spake unto Philip - Compare Matthew 2:13.
Arise - See the notes on Luke 15:18.
And go ... - Philip had been employed in Samaria. As God now intended to send the gospel to another place, he gave a special direction to him to go and convey it. It is evident that God designed the "conversion" of this eunuch, and the direction to Philip shows how he accomplishes his designs. It is not by miracle, but by the use of means. It is not by direct power without "truth," but it is by a message suited to the end. The salvation of a single sinner is an object worthy the attention of God. When such a sinner is converted, it is because God forms a plan or "purpose" to do it. when it is done, he inclines his servants to labor; he directs their labors; he leads his ministers; and he prepares the way Acts 8:28) for the reception of the truth.
Toward the south - That is, south of Samaria, where Philip was then laboring.
Unto Gaza - Gaza, or Azzah Genesis 10:19, was a city of the Philistines, given by Joshua to Judah Joshua 15:47; 1 Samuel 6:17. It was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines. It was formerly a large place; was situated on an eminence, and commanded a beautiful prospect. It was in this place that Samson took away the gates of the city, and bore them off, Judges 16:2-3. It was near Askelon, about 60 miles southwest from Jerusalem.
Which is desert - This may refer either to the "way" or to the "place." The natural construction is the latter. In explanation of this, it is to be observed that there were "two" towns of that name, Old and New Gaza. The prophet Zephaniah ZEphesians 2:4 said that "Gaza" should be "forsaken," that is, destroyed. "This was partly accomplished by Alexander the Great (Josephus, Antiq., book 11, chapter 8, sections 3 and 4; book 13, chapter 13, section 3). Another town was afterward built of the same name, but at some distance from the former, and Old Gaza was abandoned to desolation. Strabo mentions 'Gaza the desert,' and Diodorus Siculus speaks of 'Old Gaza'" (Robinson's Calmet). Some have supposed, however, that Luke refers here to the "road" leading to Gaza, as being desolate and uninhabited. Dr. Robinson (Biblical Res., 2:640) remarks: "There were several ways leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. The most frequented at the present day, although the longest, is the way by Ramleh. Anciently there appear to have been two more direct roads. Both these roads exist at the present day, and the one actually passes through the desert, that is, through a tract of country without villages, inhabited only by nomadic tribes." "In this place, in 1823, the American missionaries, Messrs. Fisk and King, found Gaza, a town built of stone, making a very mean appearance, and confining about five thousand inhabitants" (Hall on the Acts ).
on Acts 8 :26
8:26 The way which is desert - There were two ways from Jerusalem to Gaza, one desert, the other through a more populous country.